Anthony Black, Philadelphia Park's all-time wins leader and president of Philadelphia Park Jockeys, made an impassioned plea to the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission Nov. 30, less than one month after sustaining injuries in a race at the Bensalem Township racetrack.
Black was injured Nov. 4 after being thrown from his mount, Don't Run On Mike, during the seventh race. He suffered two broken ribs and three broken vertebra from the spill, injuries doctors told him could be career-ending. The 55-year old jockey was less concerned with what his own racing future would hold than what might happen to other riders if the insurance stalemate between Philly Park management and jockeys isn't resolved.
"The doctor had a solemn look on his face when he said I might not ride again," Black said. "I had to laugh because I told him I've been on borrowed time for 10 years. I know I only have so many rides left.
"I'm lucky enough to be able to afford insurance, but these younger kids can't afford it. One of these days will come when a rider hits the ground and winds up in a wheelchair with no coverage. It's just not fair."
Currently, Philly Park has only a $100,000 catastrophic insurance policy, while most of the other major racetracks around the country cover jockeys up to $500,000 or $1 million.
Black organized Philadelphia Park Jockeys earlier this year after deciding the national Jockeys' Guild wasn't in a position to help the local cause. (Guild representatives did visit the track this year.) Talks between track management and Philadelphia Park Jockeys broke off months ago, and Black had asked the racing commission, a neutral party, to intervene.
"I have no idea why the commission won't step in," said Black, who came to the monthly meeting in a full neck and back brace and pleaded for help. "Management has made no attempt to contact us, and from what I understand, the commission has the authority to make a recommendation. They have a lot of influence, but for whatever reason have not tried to step in.
"It's a shame about the untimely passing of (former racing commission chairman Fitz Dixon). He was a great man and had a lot of compassion for jockeys. During one of his final meetings back in May, he made the statement, 'Without jockeys there is no racing industry.' I think if he were still with us, things might be different."
Jockeys aren't entitled to workers' compensation insurance because they are considered independent contactors by the state of Pennsylvania.
Black said he hopes to fully recover so that he can ride a few more races before retiring. "I'd like to go out on a winning note," he said. "If I could ride just a few more winners, that would be a nice way to go out."